Black Friday is a blessing for retailers; but it’s also a curse. Initially, when the idea was first stolen from the US, it seemed a great way of staggering demand that previously rocketed in the first two weeks of December. Black Friday is at the end of November and so added another week to the peak selling period.

However, in 2014 High Street shoppers decided to quit the mayhem of battling over TVs and laptops in store and go for the safety of purchasing online. The huge demand caught out retailers and they supply chain managers, from Amazon to Marks & Spencer’s.
A then record spending of £810 million also meant websites crashed and supply chains snapped. Delays extended into the already busy Cyber Monday period and meant some retailers and couriers missed getting customers their orders before Christmas. The resulting reputational damage and bad press caused many online stores and their logistics managers to rethink their approach to Black Friday.

Come 2015 and British shoppers spent £1.1bn online on the day; yet there were no repeats of the crashes and long delays of 2014. The UK’s retailers – and its supply chain professionals in particular – were prepared with increased stocks and significantly more drivers and DC staff in place; as the traditional Christmas temp booking mobilisation moved forward into November.

In 2016 UK online Black Friday grew even more, to £1.23bn. Yet things were, if anything, even smoother. That’s because 2016 saw the start of a new phase in the battle to beat the Black Friday demons. The initiative was led by Amazon, but UK retailers were quick to get in on the act. M&S launched its offers several days before Black Friday, smoothing the supply chain and ensuring shoppers don’t all visit the site at the same time, by ensuring a sure and steady trickle of offers. It’s a tactic many other retailers have also successfully followed. The model, first initiated by Amazon, looks set to be very widely copied this year.

This year Black Friday will mutate into a whole week – with online sales from Monday 20 November to Monday 27 November reaching around £6.5bn. We will probably get a small jump in Black Friday profits, but the really significant growth will be in the entire week’s totals.
It’s not just a question of retailers and logistic managers learning the lessons, however. Shoppers are also being educated to the realities of getting the best from the shopping bonanza. They are now actively seeking out deals not just on the day itself, but for the week proceeding Black Friday. And consumers seem happy with this arrangement as it takes the pressure off the manic Black Friday bargain hunting and ensures smoother deliveries.

A recent Accenture survey showed 44 percent of consumers are less motivated to shop on Black Friday because they can get as good a deal on other days during the week. Britain’s online retailers have now a sensible ‘brick and click’ approach to Black Friday, integrating store and web offers, and ensuring demand is staggered over seven days. It promises to finally ensure Black Friday is brightened up for everyone involved in retail logistics and deliveries over the Christmas period.

By David Jinks, head of PR and Public Relations at Parcelhero.com